Thursday, August 14, 2014

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A
Readings: Is 56:1,6-7; Rom 11:13-15,29-32;  Mt 15:21-28

Inclusiveness of God’s salvation, Great faith, boldness and determination are the key words that help to capture the central message proclaimed this Sunday. The readings invite us to celebrate God whose mercy includes all humanity in his plan of salvation. Our God is a God who brings foreigners to his holy mountain, as we hear from the First Reading. Our God is a God of the whole cosmos, of Christians, Jews and Gentiles alike; a God who invites them all to love him, to serve him and to keep his Covenant faithfully. The Lord will sanctify and accept the prayers and offerings of all. This universal offer of salvation to all peoples is proclaimed in the responsorial psalm 67 that portrays God being praised and worshipped by all the nations to the ends of the earth. “O God, let all the nations praise you.”  In the Second Reading, Paul develops a rather complex argument to underline the same good news of universal salvation. His main point is that God’s message of salvation was first offered to Israel, but since they did not accept Jesus Christ, that rejection resulted in turning to the Gentiles.  Paul argues that the Gentiles must not feel superior because they too started in disobedience. However, their very disobedience became an occasion for them to receive God's mercy.  Both Jews and Gentiles have sinned, but God’s mercy is greater than their sins, an insight often used by Pope Francis.

Against the backdrop of God’s inclusive mercy and salvation, in the Gospel passage, we meet a woman of great faith; a woman who does not take no for an answer. She is a Canaanite and a woman who is de facto excluded from salvation because of her race and religion. Jesus does not even think he is called to help her as a foreigner, but the woman will not take no for an answer. The lesson she teaches us is that perseverance and humility will pay in the end. She takes a risk to cross the conventional boundaries of race, religion and gender to make her petition. Her reply takes Jesus by surprise. Amazingly her insistence changes Jesus’ mind. This story reminds us that even people of other faiths can have genuine faith in God, who will listen to their prayer too. "Then Jesus said to her: O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish." In other words, Jesus recognizes genuine faith in this woman, who even calls him “Son of David.” Jesus uses this occasion to teach us that God's love and mercy extends to all without exception. His merciful healing love knows no boundaries and particularly for the poor and the vulnerable who cry to him in faith and trust. Jesus was incredibly amazed by the Canaanite woman's faith since she was not even a Jew. She knew that her boldness was out of order, yet she also knew that the source of life was right in her presence. Her deep faith in Jesus led her to beg just for the crumbs under the table, which were not denied even to the dogs. Touched by such faith, Jesus healed her daughter. The central message may be summed up in three points. 1) The good news is that God's love and mercy is inclusive; it extends to all peoples without exception. 2) Jesus will heal us, our loved ones and our friends too if we have the boldness, great faith and the determination of the Canaanite woman. 3) The secret of that boldness and faith is unlocked by an intimate relationship with Christ, by aligning our vision, mission and purpose to that of Jesus Christ.

©2014 John S. Mbinda

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